Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Author: Musa al-Gharbi – Middle East Policy
Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 56–67, Spring 2013

The popular discourse on the Syrian conflict has largely taken for granted that Bashar al-Assad and his regime are unpopular in Syria, the revolution is widely supported domestically, the rebels are “winning” the war, and the fall of the regime is inevitable and imminent. To justify their interpretation of the conflict, opposition activists, Western policy makers and media outlets make frequent reference to a number of “facts,” often statistical in nature. However, should we contextualize this data more rigorously, it becomes apparent that a radically different dynamic may be at work “on the ground” in Syria. This becomes important, as a more nuanced understanding of what is happening will have implications for what strategy the United States should pursue, particularly given our experience in Iraq.
60,000 Syrians Killed

One of the primary reasons offered for supporting regime change in Syria is the Assad regime’s supposed “indiscriminate butchering” of its “own people.” On January 2, 2012, the United Nations released its first comprehensive study,1 estimating that more than 60,000 lives have been lost in the Syrian conflict since March 2011.2 The obvious problem with this statistic is that, independently (as it is usually presented), it provides no differentiation of who has been killed in the conflict (How many are civilians, how many combatants, from which sect/ethnicity?) nor who killed them (Did they die at the hands of the regime, the rebels, or is it unclear?) nor how they died (Were their deaths accidental? Were they combatants? Were they victims of a massacre or other war crime?).

Read More

Author Information

Musa al-Gharbi: Outreach scholar with the University of Arizona’s  Center for Mideast Studies, and a research fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Mideast Conflict (SISMEC). He is a former FLAS Fellow and graduate teaching assistant in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arizona.

Comments are closed.